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Eilean Donan Castle, UK

by John Zaffis


In the 1980s I was traveling through England Scotland with Ed and Lorraine Warren we had the opportunity to visit many haunted locations one in particular that I will always remember is Eilean Donan Castle. This is where I had one of my first experiences with going back into the past. I was walking down through one of the corridors of the castle and was able to hear horses and the sounds of swords thrashing together. This was occurring the whole time I was walking through the corridor. When I finally left, I felt like all my energy had been drained from me. When I finally reached the car, Lorraine looked at me and said: "You had some type of psychic experience in there didn’t you John?" I said yes it was like going back in time. Lorraine had said to me this is very common with all the old buildings and castles especially the ones made of stone. They hold the vibrations of past events. She said to me that’s an experience I'd forget, and I never have.


The beginnings of Eilean Donan reach back into the early mists of time. Evidence of a Pictish Fort was found in vitrified rock uncovered during excavations, some of which has been kept for visitors to see. At the beginning of the seventh century St. Donan (d. 618) lived on the island as a religious hermit, the name "Eilean Donon" means "Island of Donan". This was the period when Christianity was first introduced to the Western Isles. The first fortified stronghold was established in the reign of Alexander 11 (1214-1250). In 1263 Alexander III gave the castle to Colin Fitzgerald, son of the Earl of Desmond and Kildare (later to become MacKenzies) as a reward for services in the Battle of Largs. This famous battle culminated in the defeat of the Norwegian King, Haco. Following his death shortly after, his successor, Magnus, ceded all the western Isles of Scotland.


Traditionally, it is believed that in the early part of the fourteenth century Robert the Bruce, out of favor with many of the clan chiefs as well as being hunted by the English, was given refuge in Eilean Donan Castle by John MacKenzie, Second of Kintail. Later, in 1331, the fortunes of Robert the Bruce had changed, he had defeated his enemies and established his position as King of Scotland, to Kintail. Scant respect for the law was showing in the region, and it was here that Randolph’s "Crownare" - crown officer - beheaded fifty local misdoers and exhibited their heads around the Castle as a grim warning to others.


The MacRaes, who formed the bodyguard of the Chief of Kintail and were known as "MacKenzies Coat of Mail". First became Constables of the Castle in 1509. They took control of the area and the clan was involved in many raids and sieges. One such epic occurred in1539 when Donald Gorm a Lord of the Isles, led 400 warriors in an attack on the Castle. The acting Constable, Duncan Macrae, withstood the assault, he successfully defended the castle and with his last arrow, fatally wounded Donald Gorm. In 1719, at the time of unsuccessful Jacobite rising in favor of the old Pretender, the Spanish, who were assisting the Jacobites, sent an expeditionary force to Scotland and set up their headquarters at Eilean Donan. On May 10th 1719 three English frigates, Worcester, Enterprise, and Flamborough, under the command of Captain Boyle, attacked the Castle. Defended by only forty-eight Spaniards and fell after a short bombardment to artillery fire, the soldiers surrendered. Taken aboard the frigates, the Spanish soldiers were shipped back to Leith and imprisoned there. The rising ended on June 10th with the defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Glen Shiel.


The stark ruins of the once proud Castle were to remain neglected for 200 years until restoration by a MacRae of the twentieth century. Lt. Col. John MacRae, Gilstrap, grandfather of the present constable of Eilean Donan, rebuilt the Castle with the aid of Farquhar MacRae, who had seen a vision of the ruined stronghold restored to its former glory. The dream, and later confirmed by old plans of Eilean Donan preserved with other records in Edinburgh Castle.

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